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February 3, 2005

Sign Of The Times

From: - Feb 3, 2005

Pole vaulter Jocelyn Linday takes sign language to new heights

Feb. 3, 2005

By: Michelle Rankine, Purdue sports information student assistant

Culture can be defined as a gathering of people coming together to form a community around shared experiences and common interests. Culture extends beyond racial, religious and economic boundaries; it can also be applied to groups afflicted with a common handicap.

One such group is the deaf or hearing impaired, and like anyone else, they seek others such as themselves for social interaction and emotional support. In the midst of this culture are a few hearing aids, and one of them is Boilermaker pole vaulter Jocelyn Lindsay.

"Many people don't understand how being deaf or hard of hearing is a culture," said Lindsay, a two-time NCAA Mideast Regional qualifier in the pole vault. "The greatest accomplishment in mastering ASL (American Sign Language) is to learn the skill of becoming a storyteller with your hands"

Lindsay, who is a team co-captain, was introduced to the deaf culture when she was 3-years-old and shared a dance class with a young girl who was hard of hearing. Even at a very young age, Lindsay could observe how her friend, Nikki Ealy, utilized only a hearing aid and an ability to read lips in order to understand conversations.

Although Ealy attended a school for the deaf as a youngster, she and Lindsay were able to become close friends. But for Lindsay, she was gaining more than a friend; she was developing an appreciation for a culture unfamiliar to her own.

The two later attended the same public school in Waynesburg, Pa., but the institution offered little assistance to students who were deaf or hard of hearing. However, Lindsay was able to accommodate her friend, and helped her get through the ýroutines of school life.

"Having an early exposure to the deaf culture and growing up learning to read lips made it easy for us to communicate on a daily basis," said Lindsay.

Lindsay, a junior enrolled in the School of Liberal Arts, has found time away from the track to be involved with the ASL club at Purdue University, and is taking an ASL culture class this semester. She believes this course is instrumental to students who have not been exposed to a deaf or hard of hearing person because it helps them understand the deaf culture and how it sees the world.

"Since many people don't understand the characteristics of someone who is deaf, it can be difficult to understand and teach our society about deaf culture," said Lindsay.

Recently, former Boilermaker pole vaulter Hence "Pooh" Williams informed Lindsay about ASL being offered as a class. Once Lindsay realized that sign language was offered as a foreign language at Purdue, she wanted to apply it to her academic major or add it as a minor.

Lindsay plans on furthering her education by attending physical therapy school, and believes she can help deaf and hard of hearing patients by sharing her ASL skills.

"With my level of experience with the deaf culture, I would love to become an interpreter within the profession of my choice," said Lindsay. "ASL is no different than any other language, but some people view it as a burden. I have learned to understand that deaf people do not view themselves or ASL as a burden, but consider their language to be no different than English."

One of the most important factors when learning ASL is to socialize and interact with the deaf community. Not only does a person gain experience through its practice, but also develops an alternative perspective of the world.

At the start of her second year at Purdue, Lindsay came a across a young deaf boy signing to his mother. Lindsay also began communicating with him, and connected with a child who may not have had someone outside his mainstream group to communicate with, making it a rewarding experience for Lindsay, the boy and his mother.

Copyright 2005, College Sports Online, Inc. and Purdue University.